Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pressing business.

Vinomaker and I pressed off a lot of wine this afternoon.  A lot!  (Two batches of St. Helena Cabernet sauvignon and Vinoland's Syrah.)  As usual, Vinomaker had slightly underestimated how juicy the Syrah grapes were and so there was a bit of a scramble to find another container to transport the wine from the crush pad up to Vinoland's modest barrel chai.  It was a busy day.
But not before I had taken a quick jaunt up to Oakville to join my co-workers at TWWIAGE in celebrating the end of Harvest 2016.  The vineyard crew at TWWIAGE had harvested the last grapes back on October 8th.  (TWWIAGE's last tank of Cabernet Sauvignon was pressed off on October 17th and was commemorated with a sparkling wine toast.) Those vineyard lads definitely know how to throw a harvest party: it is by far my favourite celebration of the season.  Actually, it will be my only harvest party this year, as I won't be able to make it to the other two that I have been invited to.  I have other pressing engagements.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Just juice.

Harvest 2016 is finished, yay!  Vinoland's Cabernet sauvignon grapes, the ones I lovingly tended all summer long, are now just juice (well, skins and seeds too).  The must is now awaiting inoculation with Vinomaker's yeast of choice.  My job is done.
Special thanks go out to the St. Helena Sots (both sets), the Barrow Lane Boozer, the Atlas Peak Alky and the Coombsville Carouser, all of whom got just as drenched as me whilst harvesting the grapes.  Cheers, my dears!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Cabernet revealed.

I spent most of today leaf pulling in the Cabernet sauvignon vines in preparation for harvest tomorrow.  I got a good look at the fruit as I stripped the leaves away and I'm estimating the crop is a little lighter than last year.  And the vines seem to be shutting down rather early.
The leaf pulling was a very dusty activity, I was filthy by the time I had finished.  The Napa Valley is expecting its first storm-series of the season tomorrow, perfectly timed to coincide with the Cabernet harvest.  It will be a rather soggy harvest event, but at least I, and the grapes, will be clean at the end of it.  Oh well, sigh.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Press the grape-flesh.

Vinomaker and I pressed off the Vichyssyrah today; it was a very small batch of wine, so it took no time at all.  In fact, cleaning up after the whole pressing process always takes much longer than the actual squishing of the pomace.  But Vinomaker is a dab hand when it comes to using a pressure washer and he usually gets it done rather quickly.  There are countless cleaning and sanitizing steps involved in every aspect of winemaking and there really are no shortcuts when it comes to cleanliness.  As Bob Pepi, founder of Pepi Winery, once said, "Eighty percent of great winemaking is cleanliness."  I'm of the opinion that the other 20% is spent just thinking about cleaning stuff.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Syrah, sorted.

Vinoland's Syrah is picked, yay!  Harvest was quick and painless and the fruit looks beautiful.  The harvest party (Harvest Chili with jalapeno cornbread, then brownies and Neopolitan ice cream for dessert) was a lot of fun and included a great selection of wines.  All of which were consumed down to the very last drop.
One particular wine, that our merry little harvest group imbibed, was a Syrah made by a co-worker of mine (at TWWIAGE) from grapes from the 2014 harvest in Vinoland.  I was gifted a bottle of  the Syrah last Christmas.  My co-worker and her boyfriend had bottled this wine when it was less than a year old.  The main consideration for the early bottling was that they didn't have enough room at their house to live, for an extended period of time, with a barrel of maturing wine.  And the brief barrel-aging was clearly apparent.
Like a wine that has spent very little time in oak, this young Syrah had proportionally very little going on in the bouquet, or in the taste, department.  Unlike the novel, bubblegum-fun-factor appeal of an adolescent Gamay, i.e., a Beaujolais nouveau, the only interesting thing about this wine was the rather attractive wax seal that embellished the bottle.  (The E and V are the couple's initials, but I suppose they could also stand for enologist and vintner.)
The Syrah wasn't a bad wine, it was just nondescript.  Of course, the entire bottle was consumed.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Syrah strip.

I spent most of today pulling leaves in the Syrah vines in preparation for harvesting tomorrow.  Stripping the leaves from the fruit zone makes the picking of the clusters much quicker, and easier.  The yield looks average, but the quality of the crop looks great.  I ate some grapes as I worked and they tasted lovely, so I am predicting that 2016 is going to be a nice vintage.
Vinodog 2 accompanied me whilst I worked my way along the rows.  Well, actually, she was busy harassing four deer in our neighbour's property who were staring her down.  Then, tired with all that patrol-activity, she passed out on a comfy bed of leaves I had just removed from a vine.  It's a dog's life.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Happy 9th birthday V2!

My little Vinodog 2 is 9 years old today.  How did that happen?  Time flies.  V2 has had a rather rough year, so she thoroughly deserves to have a fuss made of her on her 9th birthday.
People who know me know that I like dogs, but they really have no idea how much.  I could not love V2 any more if I tried.  I simply adore her, she's great.  Just looking at her makes me happy. She's my funny, adorable little mongrel.
I have to work today, but I'll make sure I take her for a good walk when I get home.  Then I'll celebrate her big day with a glass of something bubbly.
Happy birthday V2!

Friday, September 30, 2016

When I smell violets, others smell singed hair.

I have posted before on Vinsanity about wine descriptors and how each wine drinker has different ways of describing what they are tasting, usually dependent on their individual life experiences.  I have written of how Vinomaker is often reminded of Necco Wafers whilst drinking certain wines.  And, for me, how certain wines evoke the very olfactory-memorable smell of Parma Violets.  (First happened to me with a bottle of Château Margaux, purchased by Thud for my 18th birthday.)  Well, just recently, I began to follow an Instagram-er (who shall remain nameless) who has the craziest wine descriptors I have ever read.  (I wish I'd known about this wine reviewer last year when I was required to find some outlandish wine descriptors for the marketing class I was taking at NVC.)
Here is a selection of the reviews (and the wines described within);
"...bell pepper, warm wet concrete and garden hose.  Apple butter and dirt road this is red-checkered-tablecloths and old-fashioned wine glasses."  (2011 Illuminati Ilico Riserva, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo, DOC.)
"Barnyard bluster, full of funk, spit, manure and warm hay, framing an intense lilikoi and apricot, giving a fantastic ying/yang tropical/stone situation--with a decidedly buttery edge.  Minerality and oak play alongside pomegranate-skin tannin, banana and pineapple..."  (2014 Sea Monster Chardonnay, Los Alamos Vineyard, Santa Barbara County.)
"Tomato compote, kefir and green melon explodes into eucalyptus bark, dusty road while an icy vermouth and raspberry leaf tea warmth prop up the chalky brilliance."  (2014 Liquid Farm Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County.)
"Hair singeing rotten vegetables, Barbie sweat and dog-killed grass over a firm foundation of vegan hotdogs and turpentine-fueled electrical fire."  (2011 Red Lava Vineyards, Syrah, Lake County AVA.)
"Thin and bright, steely barnyard loveliness. Urine on galvanized steel and fat woodsy wet needles salted with nutmeg."  (2013 Villa Borghetti, Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore, DOC.)
I hope these wine reviews are meant to be tongue-in-cheek because Vinomaker and I have been having a laugh making fun of them: they are simply preposterous.  But then, who am I to pooh-pooh someone else's life experiences?  Titter, titter.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

I dream of Zin.

A new offering from Mi Sueño, the 2013 Zinfandel (Sonoma Mountain AVA) is a big, impactful wine.  I've probably said it before, but I like it when winemakers flex their oenological-muscles.
I love a good Zinfandel because I think this particular wine varietal always pairs well with a myriad of meat-based meals, e.g., barbecued ribs etc.  Long considered the native grape of California, Zinfandel accounts for about 10% of all wine-grapes grown in The Golden State. Folks in California have been imbibing in wine made from this grape variety, now known to be indigenous to Croatia, since the mid 1800s - it's been around a long time.  However, this is not your grandmother's Zinfandel. No, this Mi Sueño Zinfandel is a rather stylistically-meaty interpretation of this varietal: it would definitely knock an old dear's socks off.
Deeply hued, this wine displays oodles of spicy-vanilla-caramelized plums on the nose, followed by more pluminess, a hint of dried cranberries, with a vanilla-smokiness on the lingering finish. And nice balance, considering the 14.8% ABV.  If I have one criticism, it is that this wine is slightly over-oaked, (but that is a Rolando Herrera trademark, after all).  The Zinfandel is, unfortunately, only available through Mi Sueño's wine club.  Paired well with my homemade beef burger.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

A yeast feast.

Vinoland's first red fermentation of 2016 is under way.  The Vichyssyrah fruit showed up on Friday, was inoculated on Saturday and this evening the must is already merrily foaming along.  However, I don't expect too much foam with this fermentation due to the characteristics of the particular yeast that Vinomaker selected for this Syrah.
Coming in at 24°Brix the Vichy grapes were crushed and destemmed before being introduced to their partner-in-fermentation, Lalvin ICV-D254 (Saccharomyces cerevisiae). Lallemand's ICV-D254, a Rhône specialist, is a low foaming yeast selected to ferment in low nitrogen musts and contributes aromas of ripe fruit, cedar, spice and licorice. Sounds lovely, I can't wait to taste it - in two years time.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Go Vatican!

I borrowed the title of this post from a teaser in the subject line of Karen MacNeil's (author of the Wine Bible) weekly e-zine, Winespeed (September 16th issue).  I subscribed to Winespeed a few months ago, but of late it has become something of a mini-obsession with me - I just love it and look forward to it arriving in my inbox each Friday.
Winespeed is packed with fascinating wine facts and tidbits of vinous information.  It's a fun, snappy read; included therein is a weekly wine recommendation, a 'Wine Question of the Week' and the 'Verbatim' feature - a quote from some or other wine-personage.  And other good stuff.  So what was so interesting to me about the 'Go Vatican!' item in Winespeed?  Everything, it's the type of wine-factoid that I just geek-out on.
"16.  Number of gallons of wine consumed per person annually in the Vatican City State--the highest per capita consumption of any country in the world.  Only 836 people live in the Vatican, but the country's voluminous wine usage is partly the result of the Catholic celebration in which bread and wine are consecrated during the Mass.  By comparison, U.S. per capita wine consumption is about 3 gallons."
Anyone interested can subscribe to Winespeed here.
Oh, and happy first day of autumn!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Black Cat's meow.

This afternoon, Vinomaker and I spent a pleasant couple of hours at Black Cat Vineyard's harvest/wine club pick-up party.  Proprietor, and winemaker, Tracey Reichow was also releasing her 2014 Howell Mountain Zinfandel and 2014 Coombsville Syrah.  I had a quick taste of both new releases, but due to the rather toasty temperature, (it got to 89°F down the road in Vinoland), I stuck with a rosé that was being poured. And lots of water.  Lots of water.  I tasted enough of the Zinfandel, however, to determine that it did pair well with the barbequed ribs, Italian sausage and beef brisket with crispy grits that were being served, yum.
Good fun and good wine.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Whites are in.

It's been a long day, but Vinoland's two white grape varieties are now just grape juice and are safely chilling their little bottoms off in the cellar.  The Pinot grigio fruit looked beautiful and came in at 26 °Brix (not sure about the Orange Muscat sugar).  I'm pooped.
This year we experimented with rice hulls as a press aid and they really seemed to help with the extraction of more grape juice.  There was plenty to go around, enough to share with this thirsty honey bee.
Whites down, reds to go.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Berry close.

These Pinot grigio grapes are cuddled up and squished very close to each other.  They are also very close to being harvested.  Vinomaker tasted a few berries this morning and then requested that I collect some grapes for him to test.  A quick 100 berry sample later, the Pinot grigio's vital statistics are; 25.6°B, a pH of 3.4 and a TA of 7.4.  It appears that they are good to go.
The weather has cooled down considerably the past two days and it's suddenly feeling quite autumn-like.  I am glad that it has cooled down, (though, it has been quite chilly at breakfast the past couple of mornings), as it will buy me a little bit of time to get things organised for picking. Never a dull moment.

Friday, September 09, 2016

A red leaf day.

I have spent quite a bit of time in the vineyard the past two days.  I am still playing catch up, but I have also started to do some pre-harvest prepping; some leaf removal, a fair amount of canopy management and a little bit of weeding.  There were several, persistent stands of shortpod mustard (Hirschfeldia incana) and spiny sowthistle (Sonchus asper) to be dealt with.  I tripped over a large mat of sharpoint fluvellin (Kickxia elatine) myself, so I think it made sense to remove any large weeds that may get in the way of those who will harvest Vinoland's grapes.
Even though it was a bit toasty out in the vineyard (especially yesterday afternoon) I had an enjoyable time and was even able to stop and have a look at the fruit, the odd insect (including the really odd insect that unexpectedly jumped on me, but which I reflexively flicked away before I could ID it) and the dark red leaf (in the photograph) with the telltale girdling on its petiole.  Darn insects!